Why churches should be the most generous places on earth
Letchworth Garden City Church members are practising what they preach when it comes to generosity, says their pastor Carl Johnston
Generosity was a marker of the Holy Spirit moving in the people of the early Church. They willingly and joyfully shared all they had, even to the point of selling their own belongings to ensure someone else didn’t go without. They believed generosity was a lifestyle worth pursuing.
Scripture consistently points us towards a lifestyle of generous living, and we can see time and time again how Jesus displayed generosity to those he came face-to-face with. Generosity seemed to ooze through every facet of his life, his character and his whole being.
This should be something every follower of Jesus pursues as they steward all that God has entrusted to them.
Generosity is much more than just finance. It is a matter of how we steward every good thing God has blessed us with – including our time, money and talent. These are three of the greatest gifts that we have all been blessed with. Each one challenges and calls us to be generous as we model something of Christ in our lives.
Proverbs 11:24, in The Message, says: “The world of the generous gets larger and larger; the world of the stingy gets smaller and smaller.”
Generosity is often shaped by a sense of overwhelming lack but Scripture points us towards a much bigger problem – the attitude of our heart. The way we steward our heart determines whether we live a generous lifestyle or a stingy one. It is a reality that we must face up to both personally and in the Church.
Jesus directly challenges this issue in Matthew 6:21 by saying, “Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”
As we engage with others, our Father’s heart is that we will be a blessing to those we encounter. When we step into generosity and invest our time, money and talents into kingdom activities, it builds a roadmap for blessing. But all too often our hearts are unwilling and become closed to the greater things that God wants to do through us.
On my desk I have an old photo of my grandad, who pastored many Elim churches. In it he is standing outside the Elim Church in Glasgow holding my brother Daniel, with me alongside him, no more than six years old. Behind the church you can see tall black fencing all around us, which is there to protect the building and keep it safe, ensuring that those who intend harm and destruction stay out!
Our heart is a focus of the enemy’s onslaught and we must guard ourselves appropriately in order to keep him out. Proverbs 4 reminds us to guard our hearts, for everything we do flows from it – including generosity. Selfishness is an enemy to generosity because it tries to get in behind the guards we have in place in order to take the place of God and pull us further away from him.
Selfishness only looks out for one person – you! It promotes, protects and provides for no one but yourself, and as followers of the most generous God, we must fight off selfishness at all costs. If we fail to deal with selfishness our world will only get smaller and smaller, and we will restrict the flow of blessing we receive from God.
God loves a generous heart. A generous heart stems from a grateful heart, and a grateful heart has the potential to become an extravagant heart. I believe we become more Christ-like when we step into generosity and demonstrate an extravagant heart with all that we steward.
The greatest revelation we can grasp is that we are simply stewards of everything we have – it already belongs to the Lord. This truth changes everything and has the potential to lead you into ever larger blessings.
I have the joy of leading Letchworth Garden City Church (LGCC) and we desire to be a community that values generosity. It was a marker of the Spirit at work in the people of the early Church and we want it to be a marker of what he is doing amongst us.
As we approached Easter this year, our leadership team and I sensed that the Lord was asking LGCC to take a special offering. Not to clear a mortgage or buy something fancy (not that there is anything wrong with that) but to give it all away – 100 per cent!
My heart was full of faith as I expected many in LGCC to step out with me, but in all honesty, what came about was far greater than I could ever have imagined. Our church responded and gifted a phenomenal £34,000 (£38,000 with gift aid), from which the majority will be released into our local community in Letchworth Garden City. A sum will also be gifted to a community in Uganda that we have close links with.
As a church we believe that this act of generosity will cause something of an open heaven to break over us, as well as our community.
The Church should be the most generous place on earth, and extravagant acts of generosity are a unique way to make the name of Jesus better known.
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